by Ron Pybus Published 01/04/2007
In previous articles we have covered most ways in which a photographer is able to market him or herself. In this article we cover aspects of websites which are a boon in today's marketplace. They can be used for a variety of purposes from just giving people who have contacted you an idea of the different work you do and some hints and tips, so they are not total strangers when they come to the studio, to being your main selling system at the other end of the scale. Much will depend on your operation as to where you fit into this range.
The fine art photographer tends to rely heavily on the web to sell and his system will provide for selection, sizing and ordering (and payment) on line. Local portrait photographers, such as myself, have the website as a shop window and an information source, without the ability to select and order on line. Mine is mainly used following referrals from others and I refer people to the site to see what should be worn at sittings and the range of services we provide. The wedding photographer and the nationally operating portrait photographer will use the website for people to order prints or to view their wedding on-line.
No matter what the use there are certain guidelines to follow.
You can buy in to a photographic website company which use templates to provide you with your own distinct website. You decide which template is best for you and then select words and images to fit the template. They have the great advantage that they are managed for you, they are quick to set up, and you need to give only a little thought to your image. They are also usually charged on a per month basis which means that you do not have a large capital outlay. They also, as part of their management, have the appropriate links to search engines.
You can also have a website designed specifically for you by a specialist company. Such a website will, if you have given it proper thought before issuing a brief to a designer, give you exactly what you want. It will have more of you as an imagemaker than a template system. There is a high up-front cost to such systems and they require a considerable effort on your part to plan the site properly. It will also take about six weeks to get it off the ground and some time before the various search engines pick up the links to your site.
The most important decision is selecting the design company. Many disappear off the face of the earth, leaving you stranded with an unmanaged website and an almost impossible task of getting into the system.
The first thing to do when planning a website is to select a name and register it. Register it yourself for two reasons: one, it's cheaper and two, you will be able to access it if anything goes wrong. The most important thing is to choose a name carefully. The longer the name, the more spelling mistakes people can make. Do not use underlines or hyphens if at all possible, as all computers automatically underline website names, the underline disappears. The name needs to be catchy or memorable and it needs to be short. www. Ilovephotographingbabiesmorethanadults.co.uk and similar names should be avoided. You also need to match your house style. There is no point in having different colours for your website than your business cards, etc.
When TV first went into colour and when colour printing first started, everyone went for bright colours, today we are more concerned with accuracy of colours and getting them to be subtle rather than glaring.
The same goes for websites. Also do not have too many moving images. They are distracting and take too long to load. One of the key points is that viewers of the site should not have to wait. Even with non-broadband access, the site should load in seconds. Some photographers' sites take an age and people, if the site is not up and running in a few seconds, will move elsewhere.
The site needs to look clean with highly visible images. The text needs to say just what you want to say and no more. Do not put too much text on a website - it does not get read. Above all check your website regularly to ensure that your prices are still current, that your images do not need updating and that is still portrays the image that you wish to show to the world. Check on the use it is getting. All good sites provide the owner with statistics of use.
The third option is to set up your own website. My recommendation is that unless you are good at it, leave it to someone else who understands not only website design but website promotion and management.
Having a website is not the end of the process. You need to actively market it to customers and potential customers. Your branding needs to match the website colours and design and every piece of literature needs to carry the website address. Every email you send out should have a link to your website. Unless you actually market the website it will be underused.
It's not just stationery but your car should carry your website details. I have a removable board so that the fact that I am a photographer is never on display when the car is parked, but is displayed when I am driving around.
You also need to make use of other websites. Ensure your entry on the SWPP website, for example, is accurate and up to date and has links to your own website. The more links to other websites you have, the more the search engines will pick you up and list you.
This section on websites really brings us to the end of marketing. Next issue I will deal with caring for customers.
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